It happens to the best of us. One night, you start studying, and before you know it, the sun is rising, your alarm clock is screaming, and you have yet to go to bed. It's exhilarating really, at least, it is for the first few all-nighters before the novelty wears off. But whether it is your first all-nighter or your tenth this semester, there is a general pattern that proceeds when one is staying up all night. Personally, after pulling six all-nighters my first semester of college, I like to consider myself a sort of expert on the 11 stages of pulling an all-nighter.
Whether it is intentional procrastination or not, an all-nighter always starts with putting off a large amount of work. Your friends are going out and you don't want to miss the fun, so you put your reading assignments off for the night, and then off the next night, and again the next, until you have no choice but to sit down and finally catch up. Or you were assigned a paper six weeks ago that you just couldn't get yourself to start until the week its due. Or you have four tests all on Friday. Either way, it comes down to a lot of work to do in a little amount of time.
This is the "oh crap" stage when you finally sit down to begin the procrastinated work and realize this is way more than you expected. Even though you understand the situation you have gotten yourself into, there is still an ounce of hope inside of you negotiating that maybe you can get away with not pulling an all-nighter. Maybe all this reading is not important? Maybe I can finish this 15-page paper in two hours and not stay up all night? Maybe failing all these tests and dropping out of college is not a bad option? Maybe you should not have waited till the last second to start all these assignments. You are aware now there is not getting around this long night ahead.
With all this work sitting in front of you, whats another hour or two to put it off? Now that you know this is going to be a miserably long night, you might as well enjoy yourself a little. Maybe finish that episode on Netflix, keep scrolling Instagram and Twitter, make yourself a snack. Take pleasure in the last final minutes before you cannot put that work off any longer.
This is the stage when you finally come to terms with your decisions. Yes, I put my homework off until the last possible second. Yes, I will be staying up all night. Yes, this is going to suck, but let's do it. Now that you have accepted your fate, there is no more avoiding; it's time to get down to it.
Once you put away all of the distractions and allow yourself to begin working, you are on fire. You are speeding through the pages of procrastinated reading; your fingers are flying on the keyboards as you are typing out paragraphs of pure gold; every fact you are studying is being transcribed in your brain. Working at this pace, you'll be done in no time...
After a few hours of focus and hard work, your eyes start to feel heavy. This is the stage when those really big yawns sneak up on you and you have to reread the same paragraph over three times before you can comprehend it. Or you are staring at your laptop screen and zero words are coming to your mind. This might be the time for a short break. Resting your eyes for ten minutes will help you recharge, right?
All of a sudden, your head jerks up and you are wiping drool off your chin. You look at the clock and 25 minutes have passed. How could you let this happen? You were making such good progress and then you let such precious time slip away. Its probably around 3 or 4 a.m. at this point. You stand up and stretch a little. Sitting down to get back to work, this is when the numbness of fatigue settles in your bones. You feel like you have to shake your brain awake and stretch your eyelids open to keep from zoning out every 30 seconds. There is an underlying feeling of discomfort just itching at you; everything is foggy and yet more vivid all at the same time. Your body is yelling at you to go to sleep; but you only have a handful of chapters left to read, or only four more pages to write. You are so close, and you can do it.
9. The homestretch
The key to the homestretch is breathing deeply and staying focused. This is the last push, the final amount of work standing between you and the sweet relief of freedom. You are so close, and you cannot let yourself give up now, not after all the hours you have just put into this reading or paper or test. All the energy and brain power you have left is exerted in the homestretch.
Hopefully, you will at least get a little bit of sleep. There was only one night that I ended up getting zero hours of sleep and I had to stay up for 38 consecutive hours to work the next day. But regardless of the amount of rest, you will be mentally and physically exhausted for the next couple days. You will definitely need caffeine to make it through classes for the day. But then hopefully you can nap it off and get to bed at a reasonable hour the next night. And you can finally relax!
Its not healthy to get in the habit of pulling all-nighters; sleep deprivation takes a toll on your body. Some people are night owls and they just like to stay up late, but sleep is important, especially for a busy college student! I encourage every college kid to attempt at least one all-nighter, whether working on homework or just for fun. It is an experience like no other, almost spiritual in a way. All-nighters are a thrilling misery that adds another level of intensity to the extraordinary journey of college.